Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

Our university sponsored our attendance at a Saturday morning International Kite Flying event in Beijing on Saturday, May 4, 2019.

Only problem? Not much wind . . but our moods were certainly soaring! We learned something about flying a kite with very little wind: it’s all about HOPE. Every time you lift that kite into the air, start to run, and let out the string, you are filled with hope that THIS time will be the magical moment when the kite takes off. We got to learn from a master kite-maker and make our own kites while watching teams of kite enthusiasts attempting to get giant kites aloft.

Ruth Ann and Mike Martin brought their daughter Stacy, her husband Joseph, and their two little kids. They were a hit with the media.

International Kite Event in Beijing.(L to R): Joseph, Lynn (our University Liaison), Marcus, Ruth Ann, Eli (child), Mike, Luke (child), Stacy, Chuck, Laraine, Cory
A Master Kite Maker at Work
Chuck builds his kite with a little help from the master.
Lynn brought her mother–a very sweet lady. This was during a Labor Day holiday in Beijing.
A giant kite couldn’t quite make it off the ground.

Ever Wonder Where the Great Wall Ends? We Found it!

A group of us sat around one day and said, “Hey, where does China’s great wall end, anyway?” Next thing you know, we found the end–where the great wall hits the ocean. Check out these pics:

LaoLungTou (Old Dragon’s Head” is the name of the spot where the wall meets the ocean.
Chuck and Laraine Chamberlain at LaoLungTou (Old Dragon’s Head)
The Great Wall descending from the nearby hills on it’s way to the ocean. In the foreground, the “Great Wall” is more like mounds of dirt. You can see how the wall disappears. Then, closer to the ocean, it was restored.
This is an original part of the wall that led to the water. Many parts of the wall have had the bricks removed to use for other projects

Our trip included fun in the sun and sand at the beach, waiting in a visitor’s waiting room to cool off after our long trek, colorful kites, antique doors, the Goddess of the Sea, various historical figures, and even a very tall city wall connecting to the Great Wall.

The Motley Crew outside our university excited to get on the bus and head out to see where the Great Wall ends. (L to R): Kevin, Joseph, Eli (child), Mike, Stacey, Ruth Ann, Laraine, Ryan, Harris, Sai, “Zhurki”, Luke (child), Chris, Chuck

Sculpture Park in Beijing

A beautiful sculpture park is found just 45 minutes away from our apartment (by bicycle). We’ve been there a couple of times. The sculptures are amazing–from various parts of the world. Here are just a few:

beautiful blossoms
Beautiful blossoms were out in the spring at Beijing’s Sculpture Park
I have to say I haven’t seen works of art quite like this before.
This park has a little amusement park for the children so here is a ride for your child… Not sure kids want to ride with a guy like that……

A Star is Born

A Star is Born

Our university invited us to attend a conference in a “small” town of just 1.2 million people. We accepted the invitation and soon found that we were the guests of honor (token Americans) at a huge “friendship walk” in central China. In XinYang, we were “wined and dined,” put up in a 5-star hotel, and treated like royalty.

At the Opening Ceremonies, we were escorted into a stadium filled with thousands of cheering people. I was given a red jacket with a Chinese flag over my heart, and put on stage with about 11 other foreigners. They introduced me as a distinguished teacher from America while thousands of people cheered, a half-dozen drones flew around our heads, taking pictures, and television cameras recorded everything.

When it came time to leave on the 13 Km walk, we were mobbed by people wanting our picture. Even as we walked away and came to a small village, I stopped to stretch and young boys pulled out their phones to get pictures. My memory is bending over at the waist to stretch my hamstring while a young boy laid on the ground, peering up at my sagging red face with his camera a few inches from my nose. I don’t even want to see that picture. — Chuck Chamberlain

Key to pictures below: 1) Pic with host at dinner 2) Another host at dinner 3) host with Lynne, our school liaison 4) on our walk, these men stared very intently at us, and it seemed they had never seen an American in person. We asked to take their picture 5) workers harvesting tea leaves -so beautiful 6) more greenery on our walk 7) Card playing in hotel lobby, two girls from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan joined us 8) Fellow teacher, Cory, is very tall and a magnet for picture taking 9) little guy and his mom very curious about us 10) trying to stretch, missed the best picture of the boy on the ground getting my face as I bent over 11) forming C-F-A-U with our fingers 12) Introduced as a high muckety muck 13) fellow big shots on stage 14) One of the many drones getting our picture 15) With fellow big shots 16)Chuck, Laraine, Lynn, Cory, and a local helper 17) in our hotel lobby

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Life as a guest big shot “foreigner” can be exhausting
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GuBei You Say? A Chinese “Water Town”

GuBei You Say? A Chinese “Water Town”

Key to images above:

  1. Water Town scene
  2. Water Town scene
  3. Odd figure outside a pub and pizza place in GuBei
  4. “Foreign” teachers from CFAU on our excursion to GuBei, including Chinese Opera Stars
  5. When you see a giraffe leaning against a wall, you just gotta follow suit, right?
  6. Where they dye cloth
  7. Where they dye cloth, and two mysterious creatures hiding in the cloth.
  8. More cloth
  9. Marcus Freitas (from Brazil), Ruth Ann Martin (South Africa), Cory (from Utah) all teaching here at CFAU
  10. A rare scene of outrageous affection
  11. Where they make the wine
  12. Where they make the wine (we tried to let them down easy that “no, we don’t even want a sample.”
  13. Scene within the GuBei town.

Chuck and Laraine Back for a Hong Kong Visit

Laraine presented at the Asia Women’s Conference in Hong Kong. Because Chuck is absolutely nuts about Hong Kong, he could not be left behind. Between sessions of the conference, Chuck and Laraine renewed friendships. It was a truly relaxing and enjoyable trip. Unfortunately, due to some technical issues, not all of their visits were captured in pictures.

No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without a visit with Diana from the tiny fishing village–Tai O Village. Here we had lunch with her and her husband, Albert, while she described the rebuilding efforts following last year’s horrible typhoon. She basically lost her home and had to rebuild it, a little higher this time.
Chuck, Albert, Diana, Laraine
Our dear friend, Annie Wong, is now Public Affairs Director for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Asia. We are excited about the job she’s doing. What a strength and wealth of experience she brings!
Some of the attendees at the Asia Women’s Conference, 2019. Theme: “In His strength we can do all things.”
How cool is that! We got to touch base again with the Filipinas in Hong Kong
Not all change is good. Here, we came across our favorite hamburger joint, “Big Bite” that used to serve Canadian cuisine. Now, it’s closed down as they replace it with something else. Chuck’s face shows the depth of his hunger for a Canadian hamburger.
The Beijing Connection. These women are all currently living in Beijing or have recently lived in Beijing. (L to R: Isabelle Berrios, Janet Steele, Leah Reid, Laraine Chamberlain, Jana Ewing, Sharae Forsyth, Robyn Bergstrom)
Former member of Hong Kong’s Public Affairs committee, Esther Lau (now Esther Yip). Esther was a sweetheart as she helped us “learn the ropes” when we came to Hong Kong as Public Affairs Specialists. She is due to deliver a baby any time now!!
Dear friend, Cora Wong (Pollard)

Mexican lunch with the Pollards in Wanchai. Great friendships are priceless!

Why Do the Chinese Butt in Line?

My wife and I recently stood in line at an American-style fast-food burger shop in Beijing. When it was finally our turn, we reached for the laminated menu card near the cash register and started looking at the menu options. Out of nowhere, a young man pushed forward, grabbed the menu out of our hands, and started giving his order to the cashier. That’s when I reached over, quickly slipped the card out of his hands and blocked his view of the cashier with my body while we proceeded to order.  

This wasn’t the first time we had encountered this kind of behavior during our stay in China. In fact, over the 18 months since arriving in Beijing from America, we’ve seen it nearly every day in various situations and venues–from train ticket queues to subways to grocery stores to airplanes. Everywhere we’ve turned, we’ve noticed locals who do not seem to accept or honor the concept of “wait your turn.”

We enjoy talking about cultural differences with our Chinese friends. One friend, a medical doctor, heard me lament about this encounter. He thought for a moment, then proposed a possible explanation. Recent research into an emerging field called “epigenetics” indicates that animals and human beings may pass along ancestral memories via their genes. In short, our behaviors, attitudes and preferences may be greatly influenced by environmental factors suffered by our ancestors. He postulated that trauma from serious famine in China’s past may now be to blame for an unreasonable feeling of urgency, pushing a person to skip ahead of others in line to be the first served.

I believe that whatever experiences we’ve had, or whatever traumas our progenitors may have suffered, we do have the ability and responsibility to overcome our own programming to act in ways socially acceptable in the current environment. We cannot blame our genes for bad behavior. However, the doctor’s explanation has caused me to re-think my own responses to these behaviors. Instead of reacting with irritation, I am now more likely to feel compassion for those whose genes might nudge them to move ahead of me in line. If echoes of China’s past whisper to the person behind me that he is starving, I may see his behavior differently and choose to respond accordingly.

Sneaking Around the Summer Palace on a Bum Knee

China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU) participated in an annual activity with other schools at the Summer Palace in Beijing. The purpose was to walk around the large lake which constitutes the majority of the center part of the property. Instead of doing the 8 kilometer walk this year, we decided to sneak off the path and see other sights there. We realized that by staying with the group, walking the perimeter of the massive estate like we did last year, we missed out on many of the wonders of this beautiful area. Because there were checkpoints located at various spots around the property, and we were wearing the blue sweaters provided by the organizers, we had to sneak around so they wouldn’t keep telling us we were lost. So we did NOT get a certificate or a prize for completing the walk. Instead, we got a greater appreciation for the palatial beauty of the area.  It was awesome. 

Danger! Deep Water! No Romping!

With his knee bothering him from so much hiking, Chuck sat at the bottom and waited for Laraine to come back from a hike up the stairs to the top of the palace. Going up would have been no problem for him; it’s the coming down part that’s bad.

Laraine’s climb was to the top of that building in the background.

The view was rewarding from the top. Here’s the sunset over the Summer Palace grounds in Beijing.

Lots of stairs to hike. Chuck and his bad knee did okay. He only chose to sit out on just one of the climbs.

Tie a Yellow Ribbon? Nope. . . It’s Usually Blue in Mongolia

Our October, 2018 National Week holiday trip to Inner Mongolia included a visit to a temple in HohHot (pronounced: ho huh hot). It differed from the more traditional Chinese temples south into the main part of China. Here, the locals tend to bring brightly colored (especially blue) cloth to leave behind as a sign they want their wishes to come true.  

It is always fun to see couples in traditional dress.

This sweet lady came up to us begging for money. Many of the handicapped there do not have wheelchairs so they sit on rollers to get around.